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July 9, 2015 (Posted at 5:00 PM ET)

Take Pittsburgh Pirates (-109) on the Money Line against St. Louis Cardinals risking 3% of the bankroll.
(Locke and Martinez must start for wager to have action)

An important series opens up tonight when the Pirates take on the division leading Cardinals. In our opinions, these are two of the very best teams in baseball if not the two best ones! We have nothing but respect for both know that this is a situation that favors the home side. 

The Cardinals are coming off an extremely tough series with the Chicago Cubs and now have to travel to what we expect to be an extremely hostile environment in PNC Park. This park carries a hug advantage for the Bucs as with a win tonight their can improve their already impressive home record to 30-15 on the season! There's no doubt the Cardinals are tired after tough series against Cubs which went right down to the final out. Meanwhile the Pirates have been rolling, having won 5 straight including a sweep of the San Diego Padres and have been at home waiting for this series to commence. Pittsburgh is currently 4.5 games behind Cardinals and can't afford to miss out on opportunities like this since this is the team that they are directly chasing in the standings. Clint Hurdle knows that and will remind his players that this is their game to take. A win tonight and suddenly they're only 3.5 games back of the division lead and an automatic spot in the playoffs. 

Given that this is the very club they are chasing, the Pirates know they need to win this series and in order to do so and it has to start tonight with their lefty Jeff Locke. The Cardinals have struggled mightily against southpaws this season which is evident by the fact that they are an outstanding 47-19 against right-handed starters but just 8-11 against southpaws this season! Locke himself has also had great success against this lineup in the past as the Cardinals are batting .197 against him in 73 previous at-bats! Matt Carpenter, Molina, Peralta and Mark Reynolds have all struggled big time in their career against Locke and are all in the starting lineup tonight. We feel this should give the Bucs a decisive edge on the mound tonight. 

For the Cardinals, they will counter with Carlos Martinez. Martinez is a good pitcher but he's young and still learning. He can make mistakes and has been punished before by this lineup Andrew McCutchen and company have hit him hard in their previous plate appearances against him. The Pirates have a .321 batting average and a .427 on-base percentage against him! Martinez owns an ugly 8.74 ERA and a WHIP of 1.853 in his career against Pittsburgh!  Martinez Likely doesn't have fond memories of this ballpark either since he gave up 7 earned runs in his last start here in May! For a young pitcher, that may be on his mind and he may try to 'force' things. He last just 5 innings that night but needs to give them a longer outing today given how tired the Cardinal bullpen should from its grueling 4-game series against Cubs which included a double-header! The Cardinals needed everything they had from their bullpen last night including closer Rosenthal. Meanwhile, the Pirates didn't use their best relievers (Watson, Hughes and closer Mike Melancon) last night, giving the 3 some much needed rest. They should be available tonight to be called upon and give the bullpen advantage to the home team as they have a 90% save ratio at home this season.

Another distinct advantage that Pirates have over the Cardinals is that they play small ball better. They have 62 stolen bases on the season compared to St. Louis' pedestrian 36! In a tight ball game, that's often the deciding factor. A fact that most MLB fans don't know is that the Pirates lead the Majors in turning double-plays (96) and total assists! They are a very good fielding team therefore and also have solid pitching. That combined with good hitting this year (an improvement over previous years) makes them a very dangerous group! If they can avoid being wasteful with runners in scoring position tonight, they should seal this game and pull a full game closer to their NL Central rivals.

Given that the pitching matchup both from a starters' point of view and even the relievers favors the home side, it is worth backing them at these very short odds. There are also still plenty of injuries still on Mike Matheny's roster with various key pieces still missing like Kolten Wong, Jon Jay, Matt Adams and still no Matt Holiday. Cardinals were very lucky to escape with a win last night but are reeling a bit just now and have lost 4 of their last 5 visits to this stadium. This Pirates organization has slowly but surely built a nicely balanced squad that can do a bit of everything and they are starting to reap the rewards of it. They didn't take shortcuts; they've done it the right away and are built for the long haul. With all the numerous advantages that they will enjoy at the onset of this contest, there is a lot of value backing them at these short odds. 

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Pirates are 80-46 at PNC Park over the last 2 seasons.
  • The home side has won 9 of the last 10 matchups between these two ball clubs!
  • Jeff Locke owns an impressive 2.64 ERA in 10 starts at PNC Park this season!

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